For several years, Scott Lyall has worked to situate his practice between the mutually exclusive
conventions of graphic imagery and set design. He defines his exhibitions as “scenographies
more than sculpture”; a set of plastic supports that frame “an almost clientless sense of
design.” Both abstract and intimate, theatrical and genuine, the work is structured by rational
processes, but seems free of users’ demands.
His new exhibition records effects from this ellipsis. Its title captures nothing but a
generally scripted statement: “…as if on tape: a number of figures pass into the ocean and
disappear.” It is not clear if this ‘number’ includes the Mallarméan poet, the documentarian
Bas Jan Ader, or any other specific character. (If you called them a priest and a rabbi, they’d
be a set up for bad jokes, but Lyall confesses his point of departure was Woody Allen’s somber
Interiors.) Further, the mottled grays that come to replace the performing figures are either
dimensions of saturation, Duchamp’s gray matter, or Richter’s blinds. And the ‘tape’ proposes
the time-image as a gauzy, fixed projection: dramatic action is here subordinated to a compact,
So what can anyone say? 1.) A small collection of ‘wall objects’ promotes the idea that we
could irradiate—or lightly colorize—graphic time; 2.) The work appears on various picture-making
strata as abstract graphemes—those fundamental units of any written or pictured language; and,
3.) The visual experience requires subjective interpolation, but “interpolation as free
imagination,” as Walter Benjamin said.
“[Scott Lyall’s] strangely lyrical installations are literal reservoirs for cultural narratives
that, nonetheless, give over information (give it up, with all the tawdry implications of that
phrase), like coy lovers who demand to be courted.